You don’t spend 25 years making music for a living without either collecting your share of the punches or having a strong instinct for self-preservation.
Biffy Clyro close their latest album with the words ‘fuck everybody’, a message deliberately left at the very frantic end of Cop Syrup. It’s a song on which otherwise Simon Neil sings about redemption, and contains a middle section with three-minutes-plus of gentle woodwind and acoustic guitar, as if the trio are about to subside into melancholy, happy just to be sad.
Far from it. A Celebration of Endings is meant, he’s said, to absolutely jar, to rattle our cages. After the vulnerability (his words) of 2016’s Ellipsis, the band – Neil and twin brothers James and Ben Johnston – have since been chastened by two acrimonious fallouts with members of their inner circle, a betrayal they felt as if it were the loss of family – which having met each other at the age of seven, they practically are.
As a consequence of that and many other things, 2020 is a very galvanised Biffy Clyro.
This bottled up everything, including their present inability to connect live with a fanbase as rabid as that of any other British group, gives these tunes a whipping, coiled energy that it’s impossible not to feel.
Opener North Of No South seems to combine the 20th and 21st century iterations of the trio – outsider angst and stadium rock – into one anthemic and biting swipe at the collective depravity of the planet’s so called leaders. End Of opens with feedback and a punk-as-f bassline, like thrown stones landing on the street during a riot. ‘This is not a love song’, spits Neil, and there are few of those here, because to get love you have to give it and these are men who can’t be with their fans and have spent too long swimming with sharks.
World view? We’re up at god tier level, for ref. The Champ is another number that switches back on itself; a little piano, a little beat but plenty of eco-rage aimed again at those who pump out their sick, fake news and make doubt their thing.
This lofty position doesn’t mean they’re unafraid to flick the switch on their version of pop however; Tiny Indoor Fireworks and Instant History in their different ways throwbacks to more uncomplicated eras when either EDM fluff or big emo-eque riffs and words like, ‘I fire it up then blow it out/ I build it up then tear it down/ Summit the ocean, scale the lake/ And I’ll pray for the better days’, felt like they would be enough to sustain us forever.
This isn’t 2006 though, no matter how much we might wish it. We’re HERE. In the case of Weird Leisure, the location is in muddled addiction, while The Pink Limit is about patience long expired. These mind fucks are the bones and soul of A Celebration of Endings, an album on which Biffy Clyro have given up on (some) people after concluding only they have their own backs.
A middle finger to the assembled haters has rarely sounded better.